City of Spanish Fort v. City of Daphne
|774 So.2d 567
|CITY OF SPANISH FORT v. CITY OF DAPHNE et al.
|16 June 2000
|Supreme Court of Alabama
Jerome E. Speegle and Ben H. Harris III of Zieman, Speegle, Jackson & Hoffman, L.L.C., Mobile, for appellees.
The City of Daphne and the City of Spanish Fort are both located in Baldwin County. Each disputes the validity of purported annexations by the other of certain parcels of property in Baldwin County. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of Daphne, holding that its purported annexation of the disputed parcels had been valid, and against Spanish Fort, holding that its purported annexation of the disputed parcels was invalid because those parcels had already been annexed by Daphne. The trial court also held that Spanish Fort's purported annexation of the disputed properties, along with its purported
I. Facts and Procedural History
Daphne and Spanish Fort are adjacent municipalities situated on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay in Baldwin County. The genesis of the dispute between the two cities appears to have come in 1998. In March of that year, Spanish Fort caused to be published in a Baldwin County newspaper notice of that city's intent to seek a local act of the Legislature authorizing a referendum in which the voters of certain areas of Baldwin County would decide whether those areas would be annexed into Spanish Fort. That notice was published on March 7, 14, 21, and 25, 1998, and it included a detailed legal description of the property that Spanish Fort would seek to have the Legislature include in the area to be annexed into Spanish Fort upon the passage of a referendum of qualified electors living in the affected area.
While considering the bill proposed by Spanish Fort, the Legislature amended it to remove approximately half of the property Spanish Fort had initially sought to have included in the area to be annexed. The property removed from the provisions of the bill by the amendment generally lay to the east and the north of the existing Spanish Fort city limits. The Legislature approved the bill as amended, and it became effective with the signature of Governor Fob James on May 6, 1998. Act. No. 98-634, Ala. Acts 1998 (Reg.Sess.). The act provided that the corporate limits of the City of Spanish Fort would be altered to include the property described in the act, provided that "the qualified electors who reside within the territory to be annexed [approved the annexation] in a referendum to be held" on a day selected by the Baldwin County probate judge. Id. (see § 4). The probate judge scheduled the referendum for July 28, 1998.
In a series of meetings between July 6, 1998, and July 22, 1998, the Daphne City Council purported to annex into Daphne several parcels of property that had been included in the area subject to the referendum approved by the Legislature in Act. No. 98-634. Those parcels of property may be described as falling into two general groups, the "mall property" and the "causeway property." The mall property lies north and east of the intersection of Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 98 in western Baldwin County. The causeway property is composed of several separate parcels of property lying, generally, along U.S. Highway 90 between the then existing western boundary of Spanish Fort and the Mobile-Baldwin County line. On July 28, the Spanish Fort annexation referendum was conducted, and the voters approved the annexation by a vote of 129-72.
On August 5, 1998, Daphne filed an action in the Baldwin Circuit Court, seeking a judgment declaring Daphne's purported annexation of the disputed property to be valid and declaring Spanish Fort's purported annexation of the same property by the July 28 referendum to be invalid.1 Spanish Fort answered and filed a counterclaim, seeking a judgment declaring that Daphne's purported annexation of the disputed property was invalid and declaring that the property had in fact been annexed into Spanish Fort by the July 28 referendum.
Following a trial, the Baldwin Circuit Court entered a judgment in favor of Daphne and against Spanish Fort, as to all the disputed property. The trial court concluded that the disputed properties had
For clarity's sake, we divide our discussion into three general sections. In section A, we will discuss the effect of the July 28 referendum. In Section B, we will discuss Daphne's purported annexation of the mall property. In section C, we will discuss Daphne's purported annexation of the causeway property.
A. The July 28 referendum
By its adoption of Act No. 98-634, the Legislature expressly authorized the referendum that was later conducted on July 28. As this Court has held, "[t]he legislature's power, with regard to municipalities, is plenary, except as limited by the Alabama Constitution." Town of Vance v. City of Tuscaloosa, 661 So.2d 739, 742 (Ala.1995). That plenary power includes the power to establish and adjust municipal boundaries. Opinion of the Justices, 277 Ala. 630, 173 So.2d 793 (1965). When considering whether that power has been exercised in accordance with the Constitution, courts must apply the following well-settled standard:
"[I]n passing upon the constitutionality of a legislative act, the courts uniformly approach the question with every presumption and intendment in favor of its validity, and seek to sustain rather than strike down the enactment of a coordinate branch of the government. All these principles are embraced in the simple statement that it is the recognized duty of the court to sustain the act unless it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that it is violative of the fundamental law."
Daphne argues that the Legislature's adoption of Act No. 98-634 violated Art. IV, § 106, of the Alabama Constitution, as amended by Amendment No. 341, which prohibits the adoption of a "local act," such as Act No. 98-634,2 "unless notice of the intention to apply therefor shall have been published." We conclude, for the reasons discussed below, that it is "clear beyond reasonable doubt" that the Act was adopted in violation of § 106.
(1) Journals of the House and Senate
Spanish Fort argues that the question whether the § 106 requirements were met is conclusively resolved by information contained in the Journals of the House of Representatives and the Senate indicating that notice had been published. Even if we assume, arguendo, that the Journals do prove the publication of the notice, Act No. 98-634 is nonetheless invalid because of the way the Legislature amended the bill after the publication had been made, as we will explain.
(2) Requirements of § 106
In a relatively recent case, this Court directly addressed the requirements of § 106 as they relate to local acts providing for referendums concerning annexation—the very situation presented in this case. In City of Tuscaloosa v. Kamp, 670 So.2d 31 (Ala.1995), after reviewing previous cases concerning the requirements of § 106 in annexation cases, this Court wrote:
"[W]e have concluded that an annexation bill, whether notice of it has been published in summary or in detailed form, that does not provide for a referendum on a proposed annexation, may be amended by the legislature to eliminate a portion of the territory as described in the notice without violating § 106."774 So.2d 571670 So.2d at 34 (emphasis added). That general rule does not apply, however, as indicated by the wording emphasized above, where the bill provides for a referendum. In explaining the reasons for explicitly excluding from the general rule annexation bills calling for a referendum, this Court stated:
"Our primary concern [is that] citizen involvement in the legislative process could have been reduced by the referendum provision in the bill. In other words, there was a very real possibility that many of those who would have been affected by the annexation did not participate in the legislative amendment process, believing instead that the affected voters would reject the annexation in the forthcoming referendum."
Id. at 34-35. We have carefully considered the arguments of Spanish Fort encouraging us to revisit that holding in Kamp. However, we are not persuaded to do so. Therefore, because the Legislature amended the bill that would become Act No. 98-634 by eliminating a substantial portion of the territory that had been included in the published notice, and because the bill was one calling for a referendum, a fact invoking the rule of Kamp, we conclude that the Act was enacted in violation of § 106 of the Alabama Constitution.3
B. The Mall Property
The primary Code section governing our consideration of Daphne's attempts to annex the mall property is § 11-42-21, Ala. Code 1975. That section provides that property contiguous to a city's existing corporate limits may be annexed into that city if: (1) the owners of the affected property petition the city for annexation; (2) the governing body of the city adopts an ordinance assenting to the annexation; and (3) the property does not already lie within the corporate limits or police jurisdiction of another municipality. Ala.Code 1975, § 11-40-10, defines the limits of police jurisdictions...
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